Sehri Tales: Notes On Writing

The annual online flash writing competition has garnered a loyal following of repeat participants and industry veterans joining in to hone their craft. What is it about this event that is worth noting?

By Usraat Fahmidah

I want to clarify before I start this article that I don’t claim to be an expert on writing; rather, I am a rookie. Then, why am I writing an article titled “Sehri Tales: Notes on Writing?” Well, it’s my earnest effort to draw you into the world of creative writing. And the creative outlet you need for that might just be Sehri Tales.

Let me rewind here a little bit. The first time I dipped my toes into writing was when I was grief stricken by the death of my great-grandma in 2018. I was an anxious and easily intimidated freshman in high-school. I had no prior experience in writing professionally before. I simply let my grief flow onto a piece of paper. I wasn’t aware of the literary techniques or the forms of writing back then.

I submitted a piece to an anthology without knowing if it would be accepted, and to my surprise, it was. This was my first published work, and it made me wonder: “Do I have a flair for writing?”

No, I didn’t. At least, not without practice. But I did have abundance of ideas at my disposal. You could say I have always been enamored of this art of storytelling which primarily came from my love of reading.

But ideas don’t translate onto paper without effort. After my first stint, I attempted to tackle the craft of writing head-on. I started with speculative fiction, and produced at least four pieces, each spanning 2000-3000 words. The outcome was dull and unimpressive. I despised those first drafts, not bothering to take a second look. I eventually gave up.

That was my first foray into creative writing. I filled the blank document with words, gave the character’s a name and created a decent enough plot. So, what did I lack? Practice, as I would find out later on. And the understanding that creative writing involves more than just putting words on a page.

It can be a daunting task to venture into the world of creative writing but it doesn’t have to be. A writing advice that has stayed with me throughout my life came from ma mére, and the founder of Sehri Tales, Sabrina Fatma Ahmad: “Writing is like building a muscle. The more you practice, the more you get better at it.”

This philosophy serves as one of the building blocks for the literary phenomenon we now know as ‘Sehri Tales’. The challenge is for 30 days, and your writing window is between the Sehri hours. This exercise helps to establish a regular writing routine, and gets you in the flow of writing.

We all know that since the dawn of time, a writer’s first enemy has been their first draft. You fret all throughout your first draft if it’s good enough. You writing process is interrupted by self-censorship which disrupts the flow of your writing. However, the 250-word micro-fiction challenge presented by Sehri Tales provides little room for self-censorship. At first glance, 250 words may seem like a simple task, and therefore, it encourages you to complete your piece without constantly stopping to self-censor. This essentially strengthens your writing skills.

The art of Sehri Tales microfiction challenge lies within its 250 word limit. The exercise at every level is meant to challenge you as a writer. As my mentor Sabrina Fatma Ahmad says, “If you can write it under 250 words, you can write anything.”

The underlying philosophy of this exercise is to push you beyond your limits and improve your writing skills by the end of the challenge which is what makes this so brilliant. Although most people undermine micro-fiction for its limitation of words, it can be regarded as a useful exercise; a stepping stone to writing longer pieces and a precursor to novel writing even.

One may not even recognize it but even seasoned writers can struggle to master this skill that demands a unique set of abilities of perfecting your piece down to the last word. With micro-fiction, your delivery of language has to be precise and on point. This is a crucial skill that’ll be required of you everywhere.

I’ve fleshed out my Sehri Tales of previous years into long form pieces for publishing later on. Some of these pieces were also used in my college application essays. When you are given a deadline and a prompt, ideas can spring from the unknown depths of your mind. Ideas have come to me unexpectedly through these prompts, and these 250 words micro tales have helped me nail down my ideas in a concrete way.

The writing challenge itself is exceptional, but the way it has become a literary phenomenon that has taken the internet by storm during Ramadan in the last half decade is astounding to me. There are people joining from all walks of life and from diverse backgrounds. Sehri Tales brings its own creative festivity to Ramadan now. However, what truly sets this challenge apart is the incredible sense of community it has fostered, which is unparalleled in comparison to any other challenge.

It is truly incredible to hear from those who have participated in Sehri Tales, how it has been a source of therapeutic relief for many, including myself, from a difficult mental state. One cannot deny the positive effects of journaling and writing for overall mental well-being.

As a writer, the Sehri Tales community has helped immensely with creative accountability, feedback and positive community support. Because writing is not a solitary act. It requires you to engage with others and their ideas. It’s an essential part of the process as you grow from the feedbacks and edits. The Sehri Tales community provides just that platform to engage for aspiring writers.

Over the last few years, I have been inspired by the boldness of writers experimenting with different genres, writings styles and themes. Some of the pieces have moved me to tears, while others kept me awake at night. I have witnessed people who are grieving turn to Sehri Tales for solace. It’s been a whirlwind of experience that made me understand the facets of this craft of writing.

Improving one’s writing, much like any other craft, requires persistence and determination. Beginning the writing process can be daunting, but starting with a platform like Sehri Tales can ease some of the challenges when starting out. And if you’re looking to cultivate a writing habit, the Sehri Tales microfiction challenge is an excellent exercise that can help you develop discipline.

My intention is to encourage you to explore the world of creative writing and Sehri Tales. Because there’s no other alternate to practice, community, and feedback in honing one’s creative writing skills and Sehri Tales can be an excellent starting point for aspiring writers.

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